What Teaching Gives Me

So often in teaching, we get caught up in ourselves. What we do and what we contribute. Me, me, me, us, us, us. However, it is often the case that once we get some distance, we see how much our students have given us. How much they’ve made us grow and learn. It is this oft neglected theme I’d like to comment on today.

I had the pleasure to be a LINC teacher in Canada for a number of years. LINC is short for “Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada” and it is a program funded by Immigration Canada to help new immigrants to Canada get their English “up to scratch” and also with life skills training.

I can’t say enough how indebted I am to my former students. I had the honor of in most cases, being the first Canadian they formed a relationship with. I was like a father figure and it changed me.

Often, my students had just come off the plane the very same day! (the sooner they were in class, the sooner they got a “pay check”). So many memories. I got bags of pistachios from the Iranians, bags of dumplings from the Chinese, so many flowers from the Serb/Croatians! We’d have a pot luck every month and it was a buffet of United Nations proportions.

My students taught me so much about the world! They got me to see through different eyes and know there are so many ways to live and be. Most importantly, they made me see my own country for what it is – its good and bad but mostly as a place of refuge and hope. A place where people are for the most part, “decent”.

We used to go on many excursions – my fav. was the free tour bus to the
Casino, on the Indian reservation! It was my brainstorm and I was proud of it. Why not take the casino up on the free trip if we booked a bus full of 30 people? An hour free bus ride there and back plus a free buffet. Not a student gambled  (they were all very conscious of saving each penny) but they loved walking outside among the pines and gazing out the window during  the trip.  Too often they remain locked in the big concrete jungle.  We’d sing on the bus and teach each other folk songs from our respective countries as we drove along. We always has a ball. The casino sure lost money on us freeloaders!

My classes would have 10-12 adult students and it was such an experience to see the Tibetan guy chatting it up with the Chinese grandma. Or the Iranian student sharing tea with the Iraqi. Or the Tamil and Hindi dancing and laughing together to Abba. These things happened every day!!!!!! When I think of them, I’m ashamed of the world we live in, twisted as we are by politics, armies and “good intentions”.

I remember so well one day teaching 5 floors up, Bay and Bloor downtown office building. Suddenly two women get up and start screaming. And I mean, SCREAMING! Everyone was bewildered. What were they screaming about? Well, it had begun to snow. And there they were dancing in front of the big glass windows. All I could do was say, “Welcome to Canada” and then trash my lesson plan as we talked about big, “firsts”.

So this one, this blog goes out to all my former LINC students wherever you are. I hope you have found success and I thank you for all you made me be.

I’ll leave you the most amazing video I know about new refugees to Canada. A must watch! You might even use this with higher level students….

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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